Monday, February 28, 2011

New Logo

Yeah. That's right. It's an owl... with a god damn controller for eyes. Uh uh. Yes we did.

I bet you're wondering, "what will this be used for?" The answer is: everything we can possibly use it for.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting Hooked

I'm always playing it. While I watch TV, I'm playing it. When I'm eating, I'm playing it. When I'm thinking, I'm playing it.

And here's the thing. I don't even like it that much. It just... it's just a part of me. Like fidgeting, or sucking your thumb, or picking your nose (gross! I wish I didn't have to always come up with a third example for things). It's a compulsion. Maybe a crutch. It's like an itch that I always have to be scratching.

How did this happen?

First, let me tell you what game I'm talking about. It's Crazy Cabbie.
This is the culprit.

It all started with Facebook. I found the game there, with online high scores and everything. I tried to get the higher score than my friends; but who the hell cares about those scores anyway? I eventually stopped playing it on Facebook and forgot it ever existed.

Recently I discovered Netflix. Now I spend all day, every day watching TV shows (don't worry guys, I'll give you all the details later.) And growing up in the 21st century, I need to be multitasking. Do you really think I can just sit still and watch a TV show? Ha. That's hilarious.

So I play this game all the time. I just took a break from writing to play it.

Here's why I'm addicted:

The countdown timer thing. This is the main culprit. It's the only game that I personally play that has this. I like to view games on how they punish and reinforce me (clearly there are tons of other things that are involved in game addiction. But this is my favorite to look at.)

• Switching in to the wrong lane
• Jumping too early
• Jumping too late
• Not jumping when you need to
• Most important of all (obviously) is having the time run out. That's the main source of punishment

• Any successful jump
• Successfully switching lanes
• Making it past the flag on time
• Okay here's the best possible thing that can happen in this game. Time is running out fast. You'd be lucky to get even get close to the finishing flag. But you keep getting closer. All of a sudden, the flag appears. You're so close, but, time is running out! 5...4...3...2...1... Oh my god! Photo finish! You barely made it! You saw that you had like a few milliseconds left! But you did it! Yeah! Okay, no time to celebrate, the next level starts instantaneously.

So in conclusion. These photo finishes are mostly why I love this game. I also love the constant movement, and the rhythmic jumping involved (it's kind of like a rhythm game, in the way that it's scrolling and you have to move from lane to lane).

This was a lot of fun to do, breaking down a game I'm addicted to. I'll have to do this more often. I recommend that you do this for your favorite games. It's possible that it will make the game seem less fluffy and awesome, but it will give you a more realistic view of the game and once you break it down to its core, you will become a better developer because of it.

Alright, thanks for reading!

Guess Who's Making a Game Console?

If you've been reading this blog lately you would have been reading Ethan's wonderful rants about various things that he does. For a bit of a change, I'ma make a post. If you don't know me, I'm Christian, otherwise known as Pinpickle. I program most of our games, keep the website up and give design a shot every once in a while.
My school has a bit of a project going on at the moment. Basically do whatever you want for a year and you get marked on your "process". Me being me, I've gone for the most ambitious thing possible. I'm making a game console!
Before we get into big details, here is the basic plan.
  • Build a homebrew computer, doesn't need to be flash or anything.
  • Install an Linux distro and get to work on making it all game consoley.
  • Design a case for the console, according to the size of all of my computer components.
  • Build said case.
  • Put computer parts in said built case.
  • Continue to work on Linux distro (most likely won't be done).
  • Using wireless USB controllers as my game controllers, make some awesome games with whatever cross platform engines I can find.
  • Put it on some big screens and impress my friends.
I've already made a bit of a start, currently I have a homebrew computer connected to a computer via a transcoder box that turns my VGA signal into an s-video one. And it has OpenSUSE installed on it.

Here are the specs for my computer
Currently my graphics card isn't on because it isn't compatible with my case. My friend says he has another spare that would work.
Not the best parts in the world, but pretty much the best value I could get for my money (roughly 450NZD).
I'm sure the internet doesn't need another "This is how I built my computer" post, so I'll leave that topic well enough alone. You guys can have pictures once my computer starts agreeing with me again.

If any of you have any tips at all, I'm open. I still haven't picked an engine to use for my games, and Linux is proving difficult to grasp.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ruined: Looking Back Part 2

This is the second entry in a series of reflections on my favorite project, Ruined. Think of it as the team looking in the mirror… and then taking a picture, and showing it to everyone on the Internet.

Today, we will focus on my area of expertise (or at least what I did for this game)...Graphics!

It's been a while! The last time I did one of these reflection things, we had basically just finished Ruined. Now, don't for a second think that it's been too long since development, and I can't remember the development process for this game. Wrong.

So, one could argue that the most important graphic in a game is the main character. It should be iconic, loveable, and should be symbolic of the character. Our main character is Alec. He is very tiny.

This is Alec. Look at him. LOOK AT HIM!

So you're probably wondering, "why does this main character suck so much?" Well, that's a funny story, and it'll probably make me look lazy. But for the sake of this blog I will tell you anyway.

There's something you should know. At first, before we started developing, I wasn't so excited to make Ruined. That isn't to say that I didn't want to make it. We were coming up with ideas for a YoYo Games competition, and I thought that it was better to make a smaller project and spend most of our time polishing it. But nonetheless we began making Ruined (and it's a good thing we did.)

Anyway, point is, I made Alec thinking that it was a possibility that this game wouldn't be finished. So that's why it isn't the greatest looking graphic in the world.

Moving on, one of the things you'll notice about the art is that it's based on Knytt Stories' graphics. When I think about that game, I think about the environment. The game gives you a feeling... its environments are constantly changing, changing your moods, but you're always having fun.

So in terms of the tiles and such in the game I just tried to keep it simple and make a "mood". And I don't really know how I tried to do that. I think the sky is really awesome; I can't really take much credit because I just took the colors from a photo of the desert. It looks really good with the desert tile.

Fun, fun, fun.

I think the four different environments (temple, underground, sky, and of course the desert) are all memorable. I also think that they have their own properties beyond the actual pixels. The have a color, a memory, a mood, a feeling.

So people, yes, the graphics in the game aren't too impressive. Christian is the one who made the game the awesome one it is. But I do think that the graphics fit perfectly in the game; it wouldn't be Ruined without the graphics it currently has.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Graphics: What's Their Value?

While smashing down buttons on your controller, have you ever wondered what it would be like to play the very game that you are playing with entirely different graphics? Maybe it would change the mood. Maybe it would make it better to play. Perhaps you wouldn't even play it in the first place.

Think about chess. One of my friends has Simpsons themed chess pieces. It makes the game more casual, and you can't really be uber-competitive and serious when you are focused on keeping Homer alive. But the game's rules don't change. It's the same exact game. The pieces are moot.

Different pieces, same exact game.

So why do we care about graphics? I think it's how we pick what games we want to play. If I am scrolling through thumbnails on a Flash portal, I'm going to want to play the game that looks the coolest. Or, if I'm looking for chess pieces and I'm a serious player, I definitely wouldn't get Simpsons pieces.

Let's say you have two games; one game will have childish, noob-looking graphics and the other will have clean, stylish Illustrator graphics. If you were playing the childish game, you'd probably be playing the game thinking about how the graphics are weird. That could get in the way of things.

In conclusion, I think graphics are a necessity because other games have them. Having cool-looking art is just another way to one-up your competitors. Essentially, I think it's all relative; in this reality that we make games in, we need to have graphics so people take us seriously (for the most part.) Wouldn't it be cool if there was some parallel universe where games where just circles and squares and different colors to let you know what you're doing?

Maybe that wouldn't be cool. (Note: just so you know, I'm a graphic artist, not a programmer. If graphics weren't important, I would be even less important.)

Anyway, enough of my ranting. My points are probably stupid. I'm bad at this kind of thing. So I want to know what you guys think. Why do we care so much about graphics of games?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crappy Stories and the Popcorn Incident

(Before I start this post, I have to get something off of my chest. I was eating popcorn, and when I was done with the fully-popped pieces, I went on to the half-popped pieces. Usually I can cleanly bite right through the entire kernel, but today part of the kernel got stuck on my teeth. So right now I'm totally freaking out, because there's part of a half-popped kernel on one of my teeth.)

On to the game-related stuff. So my last few projects have been Flash games that have a lot of levels and are highly gameplay based. A couple of the comments that I've received on some of the games that don't have a story at all is that they should have a storyline.

But here's my question. Why do they need a story?

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the importance of stories in media. In fact, that's exactly why I didn't want to put stories in the games in the first place. The stories would be half-assed, stupid, and a waste of people's time.

This is garbage. This isn't art.

In The Courtship, I have a few comics that tell a story that doesn't take itself seriously at all. If I were to make a story for games like GAMMACART or Leap of Faith, they would have to also be silly, otherwise they would seem out of place.

(While I was typing this last paragraph, I got the half-popped kernel off of my teeth. Crisis averted. Lesson learned.)

My ultimate goal as a game developer is to be proud of stories I put in games. I feel that a lot of mainstream games are heavily plot-based and have flat, lifeless, cookie-cutter characters. It's entirely possible for videogames to have great stories.

But that doesn't mean every game has to have one. In fact, I think some games are better off without one.

Thanks for reading.

Data Analysis Week 1

Well, I don't know how often I'll be posting this, but every Monday at 7PM I will record data on our game downloads. We have a download tracker that of course only keeps track games downloaded on our site. As scary as this might sound, it's a lot of fun for me to watch the download numbers go up.

Unfortunately for you, I don't feel like sharing the exact download numbers. So we'll just play with percentages.

Here's the percentages for 2/21/2011 at 7:00PM Central Time.
NOTE: Leap of Faith is not included in these calculations. Should be involved in the next calculation I make.

Ruined: 11%
The Fall Game: 7%
The Courtship: 23%
Propel: 37%

So there you have it. Propel is the majority winner here.

And that's cool, and expected for a few reasons (bullet points ftw):

• It has gotten press from indie review sites.
• Our Twitter page's background is Propel themed.
• It's an awesome-looking game, with graphics by Pinpickle.
• We have a YouTube trailer for it.

The big loser is The Fall Game, and why:

• I made the awful-looking graphics.
• I'm pretty sure it's the oldest game.
• Honestly, I'm surprised it's gotten this many downloads. Certain press sites have noted that Propel is essentially a remake of The Fall Game, and I bet people see that and might download this game after they play Propel.

About 45% of the downloads came from my two of my solo attempts, GAMMACART and The Courtship. They had similar downloads and in the developer's perspective, they were equally mediocre.

And here comes the rant. I mean come on. Ruined is our best game! Come on! How can it only have 11% of the downloads? It's so awesome! Just play it! If you haven't already, go do it. It's like Knytt Stories. Do I need to say more? Just go. Right now.

Alright, catch you guys later. Thanks for reading.


I just have to get something off of my chest.

And hopefully this will be something you think about next time you comment on a game, regardless if it's on a portal, a blog, or anything else.

Please please please make your criticism constructive. Hell, make your compliments constructive.

First of all, people view their games as a part of themselves. Or at least, kind of. When you insult their game, developers might take it personally. Secondly, unless it's the rare occasion where the game is this developer's final game ever, they are putting the game on the site you found it on to get feedback. Obviously it's also to get noticed.

But when you leave a comment like "terrible" or "awesome," the only thing you are doing is making the developer feel "terrible" or "awesome!" That's it!

Feeling good might make your day. It might get you through the day. It might help you wake up in the morning. And feeling bad could do the opposite. But it will not make you a better developer.

I want to be great. And if you don't give me good criticism, how can I learn from my mistakes? An example of great criticism is the group of comments I got for the "Challenging vs. Frustrating" post a few posts back. They told me what the problems were with some of the games, and then helped me fix it. That is what should happen. That is how you do it.

Okay, rant over. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leap of Faith

We have a new game! It's called Leap of Faith.

It's on Kongregate! So that's a big deal. So you're probably wondering what the game is like. It's a puzzle platformer where all you can do is jump.

I'm not going to write much because you can just play it yourself!